Why now did Hutchinson decide to drug-test welfare cases statewide? Politics, Democrats think. | Arkansas Blog

Wednesday, March 23, 2016

Why now did Hutchinson decide to drug-test welfare cases statewide? Politics, Democrats think.

Posted By on Wed, Mar 23, 2016 at 11:23 AM

I'm hearing that Gov. Asa Hutchinson's late afternoon release Tuesday of his intention to go statewide with a legally questionable drug-testing requirement for certain welfare recipients might not have been coincidental.

I read it as public relations for his larger offensive to get the Obamacare Medicaid expansion continued by styling it as a get-tough-on-welfare-recipients plan — with co-pays, insurance savings accounts and work training programs.

But it also, I'm urged to consider, may be simple unhappiness with Democrats — who opposed drug-testing in the first place . Why. Because they have not fallen unanimously into place like a herd of sheep on his plan for a special session on the Obamacare continuation. The Hutchinson agenda has three parts: Obamacare's continuation (or Arkansas Works, as Hutchinson would rename it); imposing managed care on big swaths of conventional Medicaid programs, and a "provider bill of rights." This last is a means to protect health providers from undue slashes through managed care and hopefully win their support for the changes. (Note that there is no patients' bill of rights in the Hutchinson agenda.)

Hutchinson presumes the Democratic minority — being good welfare state sorts  — will throw in with him on everything. He's learned that they are reluctant. Democrats bridle at giving Hutchinson the votes and getting nothing in return, except political assaults in November from Republicans who brand them Obamacare supporters. They particularly resent the nothing-for-something deal offered by Hutchinson when a significant number of Republicans in the House and Senate aren't ready to endorse the Obamacare extension. Democrats think a couple dozen House Republicans at last whip count weren't ready to vote for continuation of Obamacare's Medicaid expansion.

Democrats think Hutchinson should get his own house in order before marching to victory on the backs of Democrats. They think the 11th-hour expansion of unconstitutional drug testing of working poor is their punishment for not folding. If so, it appears to have been counter-productive.

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